Praising God by Understanding His Creation

In my writings, I try to use the entire spectrum of human knowledge to construct what I call a worldview. (See Acts of Being for more technical writings dealing with mathematics, physics, and metaphysics in light of Christian revelations.) In this worldview, I extend the Biblical perspective to view the entire universe of this age after Einstein as a narrative. God is telling a story in which a surprisingly important part takes place on an insignificant ball of dust circling a rather ordinary star which itself is part of a complex of galaxies streaming towards something called the Great Attractor, a gravitational center of a large group of groups of galaxies. And the story continues to grow and develop.

More importantly, when this narrative is seen as such, it’s morally ordered, as all narratives are. Even when it comes to historical events which were far from well-determined, we can only tell the story of the modern British people by way of a Shakespearean ‘fiction’ that a nation was in formation, in a purposeful way, in those centuries after the conquest by the Normans, their bureaucratic rationalization of England and Wales, and the integration of Normans into the culture of the Angles. In the great play by the Bard, Henry V is seen as conscious of the larger movements of which he was part — and some participants in history have been surprisingly aware of the greater state of affairs. But it’s not necessary that purpose be served consciously. It is necessary that we realize a mere recitation of facts under the pretense that there’s no order in this world is meaningless and a sheer waste of time and effort. In any case, the world is a world, that is, it has a purpose revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ — though obscurely to our creaturely minds.

Theodicies, efforts to justify God by explaining why children suffer, are not the only symptoms of our modern spiritual illness. We also bring our own preconceptions to our thoughts which necessarily contain much in the way of speculation — for example, speculation as to the way in which God will realize His promise to resurrect those who belong to His Son. Most of our preconceptions are traditional in the bad sense, that is, they embody outmoded empirical knowledge and no-longer plausible human speculations which corrupt the truth. They didn’t corrupt the truth in the centuries when they seemed to truly reflect the contingent truths of Creation, but now our youth can see star maps which show no Heaven above us, cross-sections of the earth which show no Hell below us. Where is Heaven? Atheists can tell our children where Heaven isn’t.

Why don’t we consider it important to understand something about the Heaven which is somehow part of the same Creation as this universe? Why do we repeat ancient stories developed in the days when Heaven lay beyond the orbit of the moon? Why do we fill children’s heads, and our own heads, with stories in which talking lions and magical rings are supposedly appropriate to the task of understanding the triune God and the incarnate Son of God? Why do we lead them to believe that black holes and genetic relationships between humans and gorillas can be ignored as if this were some sort of false Creation? Did God intend to create Middle-Earth and somehow the Almighty botched the job?

Our children know something about quantum strangeness and viruses and, consequently, know that the traditional stories to make sense of Christianity are lies in some way. Why do we consider folklore about angels and demons and immortal souls to be so important that we insist on teaching it to our children when science has constricted the possible domains of such entities to small and unimportant regions? Isn’t the world that God actually created of some importance that we should learn to accept and even love it? It’s not a sign of true piety or even mental or spiritual health to value pagan myths over the stories which could be built out of the materials of the world God chose to create. But we won’t build those stories until we have the faith and the courage and the imagination to deal with empirical realities in light of Christian truths.

I’ve tried to purge myself of any preconceptions and most certainly those which rely on our ignorance about specific empirical questions. I don’t rely on gaps in empirical knowledge, assuming that there’s something called a ‘soul’ which will remain beyond scientific discovery and understanding — as one example. Consequently, it doesn’t bother me that there is an increasingly complete list connecting types of human thoughts or feelings to bodily states or bodily actions. I find it interesting and not upsetting that scientists have done brain-scans of human beings as they were having out-of-body experiences or near-death experiences. It turns out that those experiences are caused by disturbances to brain systems that regulate our sense of awareness of our own bodies, our sense of our own selves, our location and the location of our hands and feet in time and space. Those who believe we’re born with some sort of immortal souls which can exist apart from our bodies should be seriously upset by that recent discovery that our sense of self is constructed in a manner loosely analogous to a computer simulation. More accurately, we’re characters in a story and we develop along with that story.

I prefer to take the world as it presents itself and then to praise God for that world as well as to praise Him for His promises of salvation to those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. Part of my way of praising God is to tell a human version of the story which is this world. I wish others would join in trying to tell this story in a way that respects modern empirical knowledge.

To my way of thinking, it’s good, very good, that I live in an era when empirical knowledge has piled up, waiting for the story-telling efforts of those with courage and living imaginations. It’s bad that few Christian leaders and thinkers even seem to be aware of the need for this sort of courage and imagination.

I praise God when I attend Mass or when I pray. I praise God when I help friends raise money to go on an overseas mission. Maybe I’ll one day praise God by going on a mission to Jamaica or to the Appalachians or by participating in a mission to my own neighbors. I praise God by visiting some elderly shut-ins down the street — not even a painful duty since they can share their wisdom and stories, funny or interesting or both. I praise God when I try to make sense of mathematics or physics or evolutionary biology and to teach others that all of this is a story being told by the all-powerful God of Jesus Christ.

I’m unified in the sense that I don’t have to drop one set of attitudes or beliefs when I leave Mass and go home to read a book on the evolution of the human brain. Undoubtedly, my understanding of Creation is incomplete and defective but I’ve done my best to honor and praise God in His freely chosen role of Creator as well as my best to honor and praise God in His transcendence.

Explore posts in the same categories: Christian spirituality, Christianity, Modern culture, philosophy, Religion, religion and science

3 Comments on “Praising God by Understanding His Creation”

  1. evanescent Says:

    Hi there. I’m just curious, do you praise god for creating the AIDS virus, cancer, purely parasitic insects that plant eggs inside other living creatures, or feed off human eye sockets, animals that rip other animals to pieces, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc? Or do you praise god for the beauty in nature but say that the horror in nature isn’t his fault?

  2. Loyd Fueston Says:

    You simply praise God and realize that your worth comes from His love for you and for the entire world. This is our world with its good and its bad. We should enjoy the good and do what we can to alleviate our own sufferings and the sufferings of others and then we persevere and help others to persevere. And we praise our Creator, though we also have the legitimate option of complaining to Him as the psalmists did at times and as Tevya did so well in “Fiddler on the Roof”.

    Your question implies a different perspective from that of the psalmists and from that of Professor Arendt and from that of my Scottish Highland ancestors who despised those who wished to eliminate the good that came with their very harsh way of life in an effort to eliminate a checklist of hardships. Even Adam Smith noted that the type of prosperous, commercial society he was glorifying, one opposed to lives like those of the Highlanders whom he despised, might end up producing citizens who are genial but have no moral integrity. Professor Arendt’s historical work on the Holocaust led her to believe that such nice human beings, so dedicated to making life comfortable and safe were the very ones who did most of the evil in the modern world. A concern for comfort and safety and a fear of the ‘evil’ in the world led them to man Hitler’s bureaucracies so they could keep their jobs, pay their bills, and so forth.

    There are those concerned about suffering, including many an atheist, who go out to alleviate that suffering but even those generous atheists have done damage to their own moral and spiritual selves by refusing to feel the gratitude we owe our Creator. Belief in God arises from gratitude and not from the intellect though the intellect is necessary to a reasonable and well-founded belief. Out of a simple sense of justice, we should do our best to nurture that sense of gratitude to our Creator even when we don’t really feel it.

    You praise your Creator for the gifts He’s given and ask for His help on the hardships He’s given. You owe Him at least praise.

  3. […] on my blogs. Recently, I wrote an entry on my other blog about my motivations in this effort, Praising God by Understanding His Creation. Only time will tell if I’ve made a serious contribution to filling this need for a Christian […]

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